30 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Thirty-One

Today marks the final day of International Plot Writing Month. Thank you for visiting and following along. I'm pleased to hear the information has helped so many of you prepare for your next rewrite and that you're confident and ready to begin writing in the new year.

7 Steps to complete on this last day:
1) If you don't have one already, create a space devoted for your writing.

2) Organize your space. Purge and cleanse the space of everything but your manuscript and notes. 

3) Hang your Plot Planner for easy viewing where you do your daily writing.

4) Create your writing schedule for the new year. Take out the calendar you bought on Day Twenty-Seven.

Think long and hard about your daily life and obligations, and your personal best and most productive times of the day. Decide how many days a week you are willing to devote to your writing. Add an extra day to that.

Now mark on your calendar the days and time you will devote to your writing. If you have to, wake up an hour early or stay up an hour later than you are used to. 

By scheduling in your writing time, you'll be more apt to stick to the schedule. Plus, when friends or family or work request/demand your time, you'll more easily be able to tell them the truth:
I have a pre-arranged appointment at that time. We'll have to come up with another time.

Without the pre-scheduled time, chances are much greater that you'll put yourself and your writing last, which invariably means you'll not get to it.

Don't despair if you find that honoring yourself and your writing time difficult at first. With practice, however, you'll find yourself joyfully committed to your writing time. An added bonus is that when the muse finds you consistently showing up, creativity will more readily be available to you. The habit itself creates miracles and mysteries.

5) Create a writing ritual for yourself. For instance, every morning at 4:30AM before I begin writing, I make myself a cup of green tea and drink a glass of water. From having done the same ritual everyday for so many years, my body knows immediately what I am up to and responds in kind. 

6) If you're going to write during family time, consider creating some sort of signal so your family members know you're working and honor your time by not interrupting. Isabel Allende lights a candle and as long as the candle burns her family knows not to bother her. A dear friend hangs a sign indicating her "office hours" that day. So long as it's hanging on her writing studio door, her husband knows not to enter. The more seriously you take your writing time, the more seriously your family and friends will honor your writing time, too.

7) Tonight after all the festivities of saying goodbye to '09 and greeting '10, before you fall asleep, see yourself tomorrow going through each step of your ritual and really see yourself writing, for even longer than the length of time you scheduled. Ask the "powers that be" to help support your efforts in the morning and to show you in ways that only the great beyond is able to that you have been heard...

Great good luck!!

Continue to visit here for inspiration as I unwind from plot consultations and comment on the problems other writers confront in their process and offer tips to keep going.

My intention is and always has been to help support writers to keep at the business of writing.

May all your dreams come true next year...

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Thirty

Reread the hard copy of your manuscript. 

Unlike earlier when I had you read your story all the way through in one sitting as a reader or as a member of the audience, this time, I want you to reread your story as many times as you need to until you have answered all the questions raised in each step throughout this re-vision process.

Don't get bogged down by your writing. Read all the way through just like you wrote it all the way through, one layer at a time. 

Concentrate first on the foundation. Address any plot and structure issue that cropped up in any of the prior steps in the next draft you write. Take notes right on your manuscript.  

Mark what works. Insert PostIt notes about what needs rewriting. Make your notes detailed enough so when you reach them in your rewrite you remember what you were thinking.

Mark out with a big black X any and all words, paragraphs, and chapters you plan to delete in the next rewrite. Write ideas you wish to add or create in the next go round. Keep your Plot Planner in front of you as you work your way through your manuscript.

Not until the plot and structure are in completely in place do you turn your focus to dialogue, description, tone, authentic details in scene, character motivation, word choices. 

In every draft you write, insert what you can about theme. By the last draft, the theme should have revealed itself and appears throughout your story.

29 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Twenty-Nine

Two days left...

As you continue to arrange the scene Post-it notes from two days ago either above or below the Plot Planner line depending on if the character is in control of the scene or out of control and to connect the scenes (or not) depending on if one scene causes the next scene to happen, don't fret about your manuscript's chapter numbers or formatting. You can address those issues in January when you undertake writing the next draft.

For now, concentrate on the plot and structure for the overall book.

Move scenes around in anyway that best serves the manuscript. Be creative. Switch the Crisis to the End of the Beginning. The Climax to the Crisis. Be brutal. Make broad cuts and assess results.

Line things up. Organize. Think of the work you're doing like packing before undertaking a long trip. Plan ahead now so you can let go and have fun during January's rewrite.

Two steps for today:

1) At the top or bottom of each of the three parts of your Plot Planner, write the protagonist's goal. The protagonist starts the story with a specific goal in mind. That goal usually shifts, either subtly or radically, when the protagonist moves from the Beginning to the Middle, then again after the Crisis, and as she faces the End.

2) Buy yourself a '10 calendar - day-to-day at-a-glance or monthly or one of those big hanging ones for the entire year.

28 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Twenty-Eight

Cause and Effect

Using the master Plot Planner you created on Day Twenty-Five, now draw a line from one scene to the next when they are linked by cause and effect. In other words, if the action in one scene causes the action in the next scene, draw a line to connect the two of them. Continue that way through every scene. 

Where one scene does not cause the action in the next, do not connect the two scenes with a line. Leave them blank.

Three days left and counting...

27 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Twenty-seven

Above and Below
For twenty-seven days, you have analyzed your story through plot and structure, searched for meaning, arranged scenes, and considered the energetic flow throughout. In the process, you have likely seen your story in a completely new way, and even perhaps, yourself, too.

4 days left -- time for finesse and nuance. Let the countdown begin.

Collect the the Beginning, Middle, End Plot Planners you created on Day Thirteen, Day Twenty-one , and Day Eight respectively.

Transfer the scenes onto Post-It notes (helpful if you use different colored Post-It notes for the different plot lines -- blue for character emotional development, red for dramatic action, yellow for thematic significance, orange for political elements, etc.).

Arrange the Post-It notes on banner paper -- sorry, I wish there was a smaller version possible, but if an average novel is 60 scenes, you can imagine how long the Plot Planner for the entire project will be.

Trick this time? Arrange notes either above or below the Plot Planner line determined by who holds the power in the scene. When the character is in control, the scene goes below the line. When the character is out of control and an antagonist in control, the scene belongs above the line.

Above the line - scenes with conflict, tension, suspense.

Below the line - scenes where the protagonist is in control.

(While you're at it, clear a place on the wall to hang the Plot Planner when the month is over and you're ready to begin the official next draft rewrite with an entirely new vision of your story.)

26 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Twenty-six

The Middle (cont.)

The Crisis is the highest point energetically in the story so far.

Both the Character Emotional Development plot line and the Dramatic Action plot line rise to a Crisis. These can happen separately (the 1/2 mark as one and the 3/4 mark as the other). The greatest impact occurs when the two happen simultaneously at the 3/4 mark.

Either way, the Crisis represents the end of something, a death -- figuratively or symbolically or metaphorically -- a job, a relationship, a belief, or an old personality.

A Crisis is life taking the protagonist by the shoulders and shaking her until she has to wake up, become conscious, see life as it really is. Without creating some sort of learning or awakening or consciousness, an event is does not constitute a true Crisis.

Falling Energy
Once the Crisis hits, the reader and the protagonist need a time of rest. The story has exploded and now, reeling, both the character and the reader need time to adjust, take things in, plan, come to terms.

This is where the character often decides whether because of what happened in the Crisis, she will take on the mantle of the victim or the victor and thus, determine the final 1/4 of the story.

By slowing the action and drama for a bit now, allows the energy to rise more quickly in the End and with greater impact.

Plot the scenes that come after the Crisis in your story and before the final (1/4) -- the End.

18 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Eighteen

For those of you just finding us today, scroll down to Day Twelve for the steps to take and then work your way forward.

For those of you who are preparing for the next draft of your novel, memoir, or screenplay by following the day-by-day suggestions here, how did the read-through go? 

I trust you found moments of brilliance. I'm sure you also found lots of clunky writing, passages that at one time made so much sense and now make absolutely no sense at all. 

Whatever you found, be gentle with yourself. The first draft of anything is suppose to resemble vomit-on-the-page. The first draft is all about getting words on the page.

Now, take time to rethink your story.

The best way to begin is to reread the Beginning (1/4) and the End (1/4). Look for any connections to deeper meaning and make notes on how best to expand those connections. Search for opportunities to foreshadow in the Beginning what comes at the End. 

Forget the Middle for now. The Middle (1/2) is the exotic or unusual world of the  story world itself and territory of the antagonists which generally functions in its own unique way. However, the Beginning and the End need to link up. See what you can find.

Scroll down and recheck the list of scenes you created on Day Three. Of the scenes that read in the story, but were NOT listed, which ones can be cut altogether? Of the scenes that WERE listed, how many can be cut altogether?

Check the Plot Planners you created for the Beginning and the End. What scenes do you wish to include that you had forgotten earlier? Add those now.

Keep your focus on the overall meaning of the story while you analyze the Beginning and the End.

Good luck....

17 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Seventeen

It's time....

Pull out that binder with your manuscript you were advised to create on Day Two.

With all the work you have done in the past sixteen days still fresh in your mind, read your manuscript from beginning to end. 

  • Do not take notes. 
  • Do not edit. 
  • Just read. Like a reader. 
  • Keep in mind the deeper meaning you've been exploring in the past couple of weeks.

Remember, the 1st draft is like channeling the muse. What comes out is often disjointed like a dream. Do not despair at the disjointedness of your story as you read. Disjointedness is good and right and part of the process.

The next part of the process and the main job of writer is to take that dream and craft it into a pleasing form for the reader.

Be ready to be firm with the critic in your head as you read. Allow for slop. To phrase what comes out in the first draft as "disjointed like a dream" is correct but a bit too clean and lovely. What comes out is really more like vomit on the page, lots and lots of words that do not always add up to much.

But... that's why we're here, right? To take what came and turn it into a book.

Now go get a cup of tea and your binder. 
Find a quiet place. 
Ready? 
Read....

16 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Sixteen

Before I was known as the Plot Whisperer, I was known as the Plot Queen. My friends and family had been calling me that for years for the way I have always plotted out the major events in my life and the parties I throw. 

The lists I make are illustrated, linear, and compulsive -- a list of guests (characters), the sequence for shopping and preparation (correlates to the anticipation scenes you write), and then I plot out the main event. The "follow-through scene" invariably comes the next day, unscripted, when I clean up and relive the fun.

Now, I'm even more obnoxious. My plotting compulsion has transfered to everything that happens in life. I translate political and historical events, strangers and friends' behavior, everything that happens into the Universal Story form -- the hero's journey. Often, by identifying the archetypes involved in friends' dramas, I help them separate what's happening on a physical level into a deeper wisdom -- similar to what I do with writers stories in the plot consultations I offer.

So, what's the point??? Just to say that with everything I have plotted and helped others plot throughout the years, last year I neglected to pre-plot this most special month -- the first ever International Plot Writing Month. 

The idea had come to me suddenly after hearing from so many writers lamenting over the slop they had created during nanowrimo and despairing that the experience was a waste of time. Quite to the contrary, I insisted. A complete first draft is a gift, as all of you who have been going through this month's exercises can attest. 

My desire was to help those writers and any other writer who hit a brick wall after finishing the first draft, unable to best determine, now what? My desire this year is the same last years.

Last year at this time, I found I had lost my energy for what I was doing here. This year, no such trouble. 

Still, today is a great time to allow those of you who have just joined us or have fallen behind to catch up. 

So please use this free day to keep at working on analyzing the plot and structure of the End (1/4) and the Beginning (1/4) of your memoir, screenplay, or novel. Catch up if you fallen behind. Re-scan the posts. Begin again from Day One if need be.

Or feel free to use this day to catch up on life duties that may have fallen to the wayside in your enthusiasm for working on your story.

We'll resume the plot work we're doing here tomorrow. Same time. Same station.

Until tomorrow, keep plotting...

15 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Fifteen

We're halfway through December and the 2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month. I trust the time you have spent reading the posts and exploring the exercises so far this month has given you a new angle, passion, and energy for your writing, and has helped you come to a new understanding of the deeper meaning of your story.

If you're just joining us now, it's not too late to catch up. Simply scroll down to Day One and work your way back. 

So much of writing is by feel. The suggestions here are simply ways to help support your groping...

Yesterday -- Day Fourteen, I indicated that we would discuss how to decide who the protagonist is. 

The reason we worked on the End (final 1/4 of story) first is because the Climax decides so many elements in the story overall, two of which are: what belongs in the Beginning and who is the true protagonist. 

The protagonist is the character who is the most changed or transformed by the dramatic action in the story AND who takes action at the Climax.

Determine these two elements and you will know who the protagonist of your story is.

Are you confident you have made the correct choice for the protagonist (many writers at this point find that the character they thought they were writing about is NOT in fact the protagonist)? If so, now examine the Climax you have written for insights into what is being revealed about the protagonist.

Think of the protagonist's flaw as the weakest link in her growth -- I would like to write: spiritual growth but am afraid the word spiritual will be misunderstood. What I'm referring to has nothing at all to do with religion -- it is the part of you that is beyond the physical body. Oops... I was talking about your protagonist, not you...

What does the protagonist have to overcome in herself in order to do what she does at the Climax???

A story is made up of an outer story (the Dramatic Action) and an inner story (the Character Emotional Development). The Character Emotional Development story is a spiritual quest. Once the character has taken on the challenge and entered the story world itself -- the Middle, she is knocked around, shaken up, challenged, and tested. In order for the quest to have meaning, the protagonist must share the gifts she has learned with the "tribe".

This is why so many stories are circular -- the protagonist must return home with the elixir -- the End circles back the Beginning...

Any character/person brave enough to step outside her comfort zone is being invited on a quest. Sharing the gifts completes the circle.

  • What is your protagonist's flaw? 
  • What does she do to sabotage herself from achieving her goals? 
  • What does she do to get in her own way of attaining her dreams? 
  • What is she doing to herself unconsciously that the story forces her to become conscious of and, once she aware of herself, is able to do things differently and thus, reach that which she longs for in life AND helps make the world around her a better place??? 

The answers to these questions will help determine what belongs in the Beginning of your story.

14 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Fourteen

If you are just now joining us on this month-long journey of analyzing the plot and structure of the Dramatic Action, Character Emotional Development, and Thematic Significance of a draft of your screenplay, memoir, or novel, Welcome! 

To gain the most out of this month, please follow along day-by-day, beginning at Day One (scroll down to find Day One and get started).

The Beginning

The work you did yesterday -- Day Thirteen -- creating a Plot Planner for the Beginning (1/4) of your story -- comes in handy today.

Every writer faces a multitude of choices, two of which are:
1) Deciding where to begin your story
2) Who is the true protagonist?

Today we'll go over #1 -- Deciding where to begin your story.

One of the many benefits of NaNoWriMo is that it forces a writer to keep writing all the way through the first draft to the end. Without this sort of discipline, many writers end up creating a horrible habit for themselves -- the going-back-to-the-beginning syndrome. 

NaNoWriMo writers often have less trouble cutting the typical 35-100 pages from their WIP because they haven't invested hundreds of hours of going back to the beginning and starting over again and again and again. That is not to say that cutting any of our work is ever easy, but it's easier if you have not invested umpteen hours and perfected every single word and sentence.

In other words, deciding which scene best starts the story often includes the realization that major cuts are in order.

Once the shock and resistance fades, look over the Beginning scenes you plotted out yesterday. Compare those Beginning scenes to the End scenes you plotted on Day Eight.

The fact you have completed at least one draft of your story gives you an advantage. You know what the Climax of the story is.

The dramatic action in any story forces the character to transform over time. At the Climax of the story, the character is able to do something she was unable to do at the Beginning of the story. She needed to go through every other scene in order to be transformed and get to the place where she could face her greatest fear--at the very least thematically.

The Beginning (1/4) of your story should foreshadow what comes at the Climax. 

The Beginning scenes should set the tone, the mood, a "ticking clock", the theme, introduce all the major characters, including the setting -- which often serves as a secondary character in stories -- and get the story going.

Keep the scenes that create conflict, tension and suspense, and/or curiosity or have the potential to create those elements.

Cut or combine and compress the scenes that are slow, benign, and "telling".

Another reason the decision of where to begin your story is so difficult is because the "inciting incident" -- the moment when the protagonist lost her balance -- often occurs years before the story begins.

Writers try all sorts of techniques to capture that moment -- flashback, telling in summary, info dumping in dialogue, and the like. 

For now, try to keep the story going without revealing the moment from the past. 

For now, create a first scene that functions as an "inciting incident" -- a new moment when the protagonist loses her balance enough so this time she is forced to take action.

Once the protagonist launches into the heart of the story world -- the Middle -- she takes on a quest, a journey to regain the earlier capacity or balance she had lost so long ago. 

At the Climax at the End of the book, she will use this capacity -- it is not a new ability or balance, it is the one she lost so long ago -- at the Climax.

The Beginning (1/4) of your story is determined by your Climax.

Study the Beginning and End Plot Planners. Take them with you as you shop for the holidays. Search for connections while you wait in line, in traffic, or just have a moment or two to daydream...

Ask for guidance from your story. What are you really trying to say in your story overall??

Take your time.

The answers are right there in front of you...

Good luck. Oh, and have fun.

13 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Thirteen

For those writers just joining us today, Welcome! As way of a brief explanation for how the 2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month works: You will find day-by-day exercises and support here to assist you in plotting out a new story and /or revising a draft you have already written. Most of the posts are written with the writer in mind who has a first or rough draft completed. However, the posts also work for writers with merely an idea for a story. Please scroll down to Day One for a more complete explanation and then work your way day-by-day back to today before completing the following exercise. 

Every story involves a quest. The problem is that the quest generally does not begin until the beginning of the Middle or 1/4 of the way into the story, which begs the question -- what do you do with the Beginning 1/4 of your story? 

The first quarter of the book, the Beginning, has to hook the reader. But, how?

I'll offer you a few suggestion tomorrow and on Tuesday. For now, I want you to create the Beginning portion of your Plot Planner similar to how you created the End of your Plot Planner on Day Eight.

To review, so far, you have an index card or piece of 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper or whatever works best for you as the Plot Planner for the End of your story AND a smaller version for the Beginning and Middle where you had plotted at least one or possibly two scenes from the Beginning section and at least one or three at the most for the Middle from Day Five

Today, you are to expand the Beginning portion to its own index card. Simply draw a line that travels from the left to the right with a gradual ascent that ends at the End of the Beginning.
Write in both the Inciting Incident scene and the End of the Beginning scene (NOTE: for an explanation about how to identify both of these scenes, again, please scroll down and work your way back) you came up with in your first draft. 

Plot any other scenes you remember in the first 1/4 of your draft. 

Do not refer to the draft itself (NOTE: remember, no reading your manuscript yet). Just write what comes to you. Do not push to remember. 

Give each scene/event a title. 

Write the scenes above the line in the order of appearance in the story. 

Write in pencil.

12 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Twelve

What do you think so far? Is plot and structure what you thought it would be? 

My hope is that as you analyze your story inspiration flows...

When asked what was the most important element in her novels, Barbara Taylor Bradford said, "The character is the plot of the novel. Character is destiny. Your character is your destiny. My character is my destiny. And, with that, I knew how to write a novel." 

In honor of anyone with energy waning, I congratulate you on what you have accomplished and offer the following as yet anyway to look at the Universal Story Form. (The following examples and references to you and your own personal life are meant to help you see and understand your story in a new light. )

When I am not writing and helping writers with their plots, I volunteer at the local Children’s Shelter. Rather than let pain and betrayal sit and fester, I invite the kids to explore the universal story form as it plays out in their lives.

Birth sets us on a journey. Beginnings and endings, conflicts and challenges, friends and foes, crises and climaxes are all part of that journey.

Though I have asked you earlier to list 7 scenes in your story that correspond to the 7 major scenes in a story, today I discuss just 4 of them.

1) End of the Beginning
By the time the counselors, kids, volunteers, and I all huddle inside the Shelter classroom, there is no place to escape. I break down stories to seventeen year-old boys who loom large and twelve-year-old girls who are already women.

I start with a focus on the Beginning. The beginning 1/4 of the story leads to a moment of no return, a moment when life shifts and creates the end of all that has been—the End of the Beginning.

After the kids write the beginning of their stories, a girl with clear brown eyes writes that she wants more time with her dad. She dreams of playing baseball like him. At the End of the Beginning, her dad dies.

Another girl shows a mom in heaven remembering her beautiful little girls. The End of the Beginning is when the girls go live with an uncle with a belt.

Now, try it for yourself. Think about your life. Are you feeling like a fish out of water? Floundering in a strange and exotic new world? Feeling thrust into a place where you do not fit in? Do not understand the rules? Feeling out of sorts?

What about your protagonist? Now that you / she cannot go back to the way things were before that moment hit—write that for both you and your protagonist.

2) Crisis
In stories, the event that marks the End of the Beginning thrusts the character out of their old world and into a new one. Thus, begins the Middle, which is made up for 1/2 of the page count of the entire story. In real life, when one door closes, we, too, enter a new world, be it a new physical place or a new psychological state. This new world is where you have the chance to evolve and ultimately be transformed.

Unfamiliar with our new surroundings, we venture forth with uncertainty. Often afraid, we encounter obstacles that trip us up and cause us to falter. We stumble over hurdles. 

Our resistance causes pain.

The kids write down three bumps that shake their main character to their core. Three things that stop them and interfere with their dreams. I advise the kids that we only find out whom we truly are when we are challenged. 

Adversity does not build character. 
Adversity reveals character.

Who and what (antagonists) have you gone up against lately? Who or what stands in the way of your happiness? Friends and family? Societal norms, handicaps, or you yourself? Do your fears and prejudices and flaws prevent you from achieving that which you long for? How do you sabotage yourself? What about your protagonist?

The challenges in the Middle rise in intensity until something explodes at the Crisis.

The Crisis may have already happened in your life. The Crisis may be something you can see happening if you do not take control of your own life. A Crisis is a deep disappointment, a blow that sends you to your knees, the dark night of the soul. The Crisis is a breakdown that has the potential to cause a break-through.

Write about something you are unable to do now. Consider what Crisis you must experience first to force you to move on, let go, detach, surrender, do things differently, believe in yourself. 

What does the Crisis represent to you getting control of your own life? What you write about now, you may not have to experience later. What represents the Crisis to your protagonist?

After her father’s death, the girl with liquid eyes writes about feelings of denial. She falls into depression. Next comes rage. She turns violent and is placed in a group home. Separated from all she knows and understands, she experiences a Crisis.

3) Climax
In all great fiction, the main character undergoes a transformation. The dramatic action in the Middle and what happens at the Crisis changes everything. Once unconscious of whom they are, the character now becomes conscious.

Character transformation is a form of alchemy. Rather than metal turned into gold, challenges and disappointments transform into gifts and opportunities. The victim becomes the victor. 

You, too, have the opportunity to be transformed by what happens in your life.

At the Shelter, I give examples of characters overcoming tremendous odds and showing, at the Climax, their transformed self. At the end of all great stories, the main character is able to do something they were unable to do at the beginning of the story. The same applies in life.

You have written about where you are. Consider where you would like to be. What must you shed to get there? What must you learn? As you move toward your ideal, you carry with you all you have learned. Your old self dissolves.

The Climax at the end of the story shows an action taken that demonstrates your protagonist's new awareness, skill, strength, belief, and/or personal power. At the Climax, the new self is now able to confront antagonists and conquer challenges that the old self could not.

At the end of her story, the girl with the brown eyes faces the pain of losing her father. She learns to control her anger. This prepares her to confront her mother whom she blames for her father’s death.

Write a Climax that shows you facing your greatest fears. Imagine what that moment will feel like, taste and smell like, look and sound like. Describe yourself as a victor, a champion, a survivor, a body transformed and living the life you dream of. Dream big. Write that. Do the same for your protagonist.

4) Resolution
When someone real or imagined is transformed, the experience means something. Consider what you would like your life to stand for so far. What about your protagonist? Write that.

At the end of the day at the Shelter, the kids barely have time to explore what they want in life. Many of them will soon be too old for the system. The place that protects abandoned, abused and neglected kids will release them on their own. Will the glimpse they have in writing their stories help shape what comes next? One can only hope.

We talk about what stories mean overall: Good triumphs over evil (the girl with the belt). Self-control leads to happiness (the girl with the liquid brown eyes. In her story, her main character is ultimately reunited with her family. She joins a baseball team.)

Stories reflect the heartbeat of the universe. All of us pulse to this universal rhythm. The more integrated the hero’s journey in our psyches, the more satisfying the act of writing and the more meaningful life becomes.

The paradigm of endings causing new beginnings causing discomfort that builds to a crisis happens over and over again in stories. Our lives revolve in much the same way on both grand and minute scales.

Open your eyes after a Crisis. Wake up to the deeper meaning of life around you. Let go of attachments. Break free from anxiety. Determine what you really want. Rise up out of depression. Locate opportunities for transformation. Let go of disappointment. Expose your fear to the light.

Shine a light on your life through your writing. Awareness leads to the possibility of transformation. 

Dream big. 

Write that

11 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Eleven

Welcome to Day Eleven

In order to achieve the best results from this 2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month, I advise scrolling down to Day One and working your way back to today. As I have explained earlier, this month is completely different in tone and approach to the process you recently used to complete your project's first draft.

Now, rather than give into the mysterious and mystical process of allowing a story to develop, this month is devoted to a more methodical analyzation of the ideas and scenes you have already processed. Whereas the first draft often relies heavily on faith and patience, this month, we ask you to take what you have created and revise it into a form that is satisfying to a reader.

The magic that came in draft one is for you the writer. What comes in subsequent drafts is for the reader.

As for Day Eleven, I am undecided what to cover next: the Beginning (1/4) or the Middle (1/2)?

While I wait for inspiration, I will summarize what we have covered thus far. 

Check off what you've accomplished:

1) Managed NOT to read your manuscript -- Day One
2) Filled out a Character Plot Profile for your protagonist and major secondary characters and antagonist, if a person -- Day One
3) Printed a hard copy of your manuscript and insert in a binder -- Day Two
4) Made a list of scenes you remember in your story -- either as plot points or just a list of the events themselves -- Day Three
5) Listed themes touched on in your story -- Day Four
6) Plotted the major 3 - 7 scenes/event on a Plot Planner -- Day Five
7) Considered how the major scenes/events are linked together through Character Emotional Development and Dramatic Action and Thematic Significance -- Day Five
8) Crafted a one-sentence blurb of what your story is really all about -- Day Six and Day Seven
9) Organized your miscellaneous notes --Day Eight
10) Expanded the PP to include all the scenes you remember in the End (1/4) -- Day Eight
11) Identified the protagonist's transformation at the Climax --Day Nine
12) Considered an Anticipation scene and Follow-up scene for each major scene/event in the build-up to the Climax -- Day Ten

Whew! Sounds like a lot. 

I appreciate that some of you are already behind. No worries. Whatever you do this month will be helpful when it comes time for the next rewrite. 

Trust the process and enjoy yourself.

We are now more than 1/3 of the way through the 2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month. Congratulate yourself for sticking with this. 

As the nights grow longer and the days colder, we move deeper into the cave. Light a candle for yourself and one for your story, too. 

This is the time of introspection. Dig deeper into your story. Analyze and re-vision

Before you know it, the new year begins and the days suddenly grow longer. By then, you will be off and running on your next draft, certain of where you are headed and filled with anticipation, excitement, and expectancy...

Use today to catch up...

10 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Ten

For those of you more literary minded, what we are doing here is not an attempt to establish literary rules and regulations. Far from it. Nor, do we want to rob you of the riches of your minds and souls. Quite the opposite. 

In completing the first draft of your screenplay, memoir, or novel, you likely encountered countless ambiguous and difficult elements, all of which, no doubt, spurred you yet closer to finding your true voice of creativity and expression. Yet, even within the catalyst for creative production that we all desire, some structure and guidelines often prove helpful.

THE END: PART THREE
The End (final 1/4 of the story) is made up of more than the Climax (which we covered Day Nine). When you followed the assignment for Day Eight, I trust you were able to remember and plot out scenes from this final section besides just the Climax.

Yes, the Climax is the crowning glory and it really deserves more than one day, but it is time to move along. 

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said at a commencement speech: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."

Your job as writer is to connect the dots. And, because you know the future -- the Climax -- you do not need to rely on trust. You can actually connect the dots.

Work backwards from the Climax -- which is the moment when the protagonist finally stands firmly in her power, stands up to her greatest fear or confronts the thing that has beat her up spiritually. The scenes in the final 1/4 of the project lead up to the Climax.

As you see, the line ascends quickly. The scenes you plot here serve primarily to advance the protagonist to the Climax. Nothing new can be introduced, no pontification or philosophizing. The reader does not want the story to end, but they can not stop reading. They have to know what happens. Keep things moving.

These final scenes show the protagonist beginning to develop and rely on her intuition. She fights for one step forward. Falls two steps back. Conflict, tension, suspense at every turn -- yes, even if you're writing a memoir for your kids, keep it exciting. Keep the story moving. You, as the author, may not want it to end either. You have fallen in love with the characters. They have taken over your life. Get over it. Move steadily to the Climax.

In the End, the protagonist still has foes to confront and overcome. Only now, she is armed with a new understanding of herself. For the first time, her goal truly comes into focus. She can see it. She moves toward the light -- one step forward toward the ultimate transformation, beat back three steps.

Yes, the Climax spotlights the character in full transformation as she demonstrates the necessary new skill or personality, gift or action, but the scenes that build up to the Climax show us the transformation unfolding step-by-step. The reader lives the experience with her. Together the protagonist and reader moves closer and closer to her goal, firmly aware that she had to experience everything she did throughout the entire book to get to this final stage -- the Climax.

Ask yourself -- do the scenes that lead up to the Climax reveal most dramatically her steps toward transformation?

Assignment:
1) For maximum effect, check that every scene you've plotted on your Plot Planner for the End (final 1/4 of the story) has both: 
a) a preparation or anticipation scene that comes right before 
AND 
b) a follow-up, reactionary scene that comes right after.

It's like playing tennis. Huh? I know, playing tennis is nothing like writing, but... As a kid, I learned "turn and step, hit, follow-through." 

1) Turn -- preparation step 
Hit -- main event 
2) Follow-through -- reaction 

1) Preparation or anticipation creates emotion. Often, the anticipation of some feared event is worse than the actual event itself -- creates tension, conflict and suspense.

2) Without the follow-through step in tennis, your hit is erratic. Without showing the effect of the action on the character in writing, you rob the reader of revealing emotion. And, one can never have enough emotion in a story.

09 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Nine

Welcome all you dedicated writers committed to your craft! If you're just joining us, scroll down to Day One and work your way back.

THE END: PART TWO

People who know me are not likely to be surprised I start at the End. I've always done things a bit backwards. But, I have three valid reasons for beginning this way: 

1)
The End never gets the attention the Beginning does. Writers often never even get to the End. They begin to stall out in the Middle of the story and end up running back at the Beginning, over and over again. Or, if they do get to the End, they've lost so much energy for the story, the End is vague and underdeveloped. 

This paradigm echoes in other aspects of real life. Most of us live basically the same story over and over again. If we are brave enough to literally or figuratively leave everything we know (End of the Beginning), by the time things start to get messy -- which they have to in the Middle -- we usually give up, turn a blind eye, stick our head's in the sand. We end up back "home," licking our wounds. 

In stories, once the protagonist advances into the Middle of the story, she does not have the option of turning back. (Note: there are no rules to writing.)

The protagonist is tough enough to go all the way into hell and face her biggest fear or her worst ordeal (the Crisis in the Middle). After that Crisis, she then makes the journey back to share the gift -- not running home crying, -- returning a victor. Where, in the End she faces the ultimate antagonist at the Climax, which often turns out to be herself. 

(Please note: I'm using two different words to mark two different moments of highest intensity respectively:
Crisis, which occurs in the Middle at about the 3/4 mark in the story
AND 
Climax, which occurs in the End (1/4) one scene or chapter before the last page of the entire story)

2)
The Climax is the crowning glory of the entire story and, thus, deserves focused attention.

In real life, a person who suffers a Crisis either goes back to the "tribe" to share her triumph and help others learn from her life, mistakes, awakening -- her Climax. Or, in real life, she can turn away from the challenge and remain unchanged, thus, never reach the Climax. Just because we survive an ordeal does not always mean we are transformed by it. 

In stories, however, the character undergoes a transformation. Therefore, the protagonist must face her greatest antagonist at the Climax in the End, be it an external person or an internal fear.

3)
The Climax determines every scene that comes before or leads up to the Climax. Once you know the Climax, you know exactly which scenes to keep and which scenes you've written that need to be cut or revised so that they point thematically to the Climax.
  • Does the Climax of your story rise to the greatest intensity of the entire story? 
  • Think of your story as energy. Does the Climax deliver an energetic impact?

CHARACTER EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Some people believe that we incarnate in the world to heal a specific wound but that, at birth, we then forget our task. Most of us spend all of our lives unconscious of this deeper destiny. 

It's the opposite in a story. What happens throughout the story makes it impossible for the protagonist to remain unconscious. The Crisis in the Middle forces the protagonist to consciousness. This gives her the ability to face the greatest challenge of the entire story -- the Climax at the End -- and not only survive, but to triumph. 

The Climax at the End usually hits one scene or, at the most one chapter, from the last page of the project. By then, the protagonist has learned everything she needs to know, scene-by-scene throughout the entire story, to do what she came here to do. 

The End feels inevidable because every scene that comes before the Climax has led the reader scene-by-scene to that very moment.
  • What is your protagonist's true journey? purpose? 
  • What is it that only your protagonist can do? deliver? conquer? overcome? 
  • What is the gift only your character has (granted they have to go through all the trial and challenges throughout the story to get there, but...)? 
  • Why your character?
Keep an open mind. Be loose. Use the information in whatever best serves your writing. My goal here is to help you prepare and make you excited to tackle writing the next draft.

08 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Eight

If you are joining us for the first time, please scroll down to Day One. The reason I do not provide a "hot" link to the post is because doing so will take you only to that day's post and you want to work your way through all past seven posts to catch up.

What we are doing here at the
2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month is dry and analytical compared to the magical and mystical process of writing the first draft. However, processing your story through your intellect and analyzing it wipes away befuddlement and leads to clarity of character goals and motivation which in turn helps to create convincing expression and emotion. 

The work we do here, like the plot workshops I teach, is divided between explanation and time for development of the three major plotlines for your individual project. For the sake of convenience, the explanation here gives independent consideration to the dramatic (action), emotional (character development), and thematic aspects of story, but keep in mind that all aspects of a successful writing project must become integrated into the total structure to create its unity, and that achieving this unity is the goal of every writer.

Today is two-pronged:
1) Organize
If you haven't already, print out your manuscript. Do NOT read it. Be sure to include a header on every page with your title in caps / name on the upper left and the page # on the upper right. 
Don't worry about spell checking or chapter breaks. just make sure the pages are numbered.

Insert your project into a binder. [Warning: printing manuscript is a snap compared to hole-punching the pages. However, it's important to have the manuscript bound and in one place.]
Divide the total number of pages in the binder by 4. Stick a post-it note at the 1/4 mark and another one at the 3/4 mark. 

Put the binder away, for now.

Gather all the extraneous notes you may have generated during the writing of the rough draft that you have not yet integrated into the piece and the notes you have generated thus far during PlotWriMo. Divide the notes and stick them into file folders labeled Beginning (1/4), Middle (1/2), End (1/4). Straighten up your desk. Purge everything you can that you accumulated while writing the rough draft. Put things in order.

You're entering a new phase. Time to cleanse and prepare to step into the next draft.

2) Plot THE END: PART ONE
Pull out your index cards or paper or whatever works for you. Keep the Beginning and Middle sections of the Plot Planner you drew earlier. Cut off the End. Using an entire index card turned horizontal for the End this time, draw a line that travels from nearly the bottom edge steeply to nearly the top edge of the index card and then down. 
Write in the scene the hits directly before the Climax and the Climax itself and the Resolution you came up with in your first draft. Plot any other scenes you can remember in the final 1/4 of your draft. Don't look. Just write what comes to you. Give each scene/event a title. Write the scenes above the line in the order of appearance in the story. Write in pencil. 

Often in fulfilling either/both assignments, writers find disaster hits. Coffee spills on the manuscript or the index card rips. Perhaps, you stub your toe, break the pencil lead, or yell at the dog for tracking muddy paws across your Plot Planner. If this happens, note the resistance. 

Accidents are a rebellion against authority. 

Ask yourself: to whom or what am I giving up my authority?

Perhaps you've given your power over to the belief that this stuff is too hard or that you've always hated getting organized and plotting, that you aren't smart enough to get this, or that your story is no good and who is ever going to want read your work anyway? Or, your story is so great you don't need all this added work. Could be, you're racing to get the assignment completed because there are so many other things to get done. 

You have the choice to buck up and do the work or mire in the muck. 

I vote that you get back into your body and reclaim your power. The work you are doing is important. You deserve the time it takes to get this right.

Hey, it's the holidays. This is suppose to be fun. You're shaking things up. Doing things differently. Or, like one of the few commenters commented earlier -- it can't hurt. Right?

Your story is amazing. You are amazing. Being an artist takes discipline. You are an artist. You can do this....

07 December 2009

International Plot Writing Month -- Day Seven

Today, your assignment, if you choose to say yes, is to carry your Plot Planner index cards and a pencil or pen with you everywhere. 

I see you standing in line at the post office and the grocery store serenely grateful for the wait because it allows you more time to ponder your story. I see you waiting in the dentist's office or in thick traffic with your eyes up and to the left glazed over as inspiration fills you. I see you unplugging from negative thoughts about that nasty brother-in-law coming for dinner and plugging into your story instead.
  • Story is all about character transformation. How has your protagonist been transformed by the Dramatic Action in the story? 
  • What is your story really saying? What do all those words you wrote add up to? 
  • Your story is a reflection of a truth. Not necessarily true for all time, but true for the story itself, and likely for yourself, too. What is the deeper meaning? The truth beyond the physical? 
  • How do the secondary plot lines support the major plot line thematically?
  • How do the secondary characters' journeys mirror the protagonist's journey?
  • Does the setting support the theme?
  • What elements in the Beginning (1/4) echo back in the End (1/4)
Jot down whatever comes to you on the back of your Plot Planner.

To proclaim International Plot Writing Month in December and not mention the holidays is like standing mute in a room filled with angels and trolls. In our zeal to capture the holidays just right we run ourselves ragged. Part of this impulse is running from the darkness as the days turn shorter and shorter. It echoes back thousands of years to our fear that the failing light would never return without our intervention. 

Fitting in writing time becomes more and more impossible as we await the rebirth of the sun and as the year winds down. Instead of fighting what is, I invite you to continue analyzing your stories instead. The work you do this month will make next month's rewrite a breeze. 

Think of the work you do this month as your holiday present to yourself. Think of International Plot Writing Month as your writer's plot guide through the holidays....

Next week we start in on the End of your project (the final 1/4 of the total pages or word count. If you haven't already, write the Climax today. It doesn't matter how vague -- read: inspirational, or how awful -- read: creative, just get something on paper.)

Enjoy!!

Oh, and remember -- no reading your manuscript. Not yet.....

(If you are joining us for the first time, please go to Day One and work your way back. Welcome.)

06 December 2009

2nd Annual Plot Writing Month -- Day Six

If you're just joining us for the 2nd Annual Plot WriMo, we're about to enter the analyzation phase. Wait... before you click away, I admit what we're doing here is not very romantic, especially if you've just emerged from under the spell of creating a new story. Still, what you do here for this month, rather than strip away, actually strengthens and builds your story's vital essence and clears a path for a dynamic rewrite.

Plot Writing Month works best if you start at the beginning. Scroll down to Day One and work your way back.

I'm following along using a rough draft of mine to do the assignments for the 2nd Annual International Plot WriMo. Because I do better when I write it and see it, I grab a few 3 X 5 white index cards and colored pens, and transfer the themes I'd jotted down to the top of the index card and draw a tiny PP -- tiny because it only has to fit 7 scenes for now.

Five scenes come quickly. With some tweaking and rethinking, seven of them link together by themes of betrayal and forgiveness and love. Still, the overall meaning -- that perfect thematic statement -- alludes me. It's there in the story. I just don't know the story well enough to distill a 45,000 word story into one pithy statement. Yet...

It will come. Whatever you focus your attention comes to you.

In the meantime, I keep the index card with the tiny Plot Planner of 7 scenes close by and continue exploring the themes as they appear.

The Beginning (1/4)
The Inciting Incident scene and the End of the Beginning scene, the first and last respectively in the Beginning, fit the criteria perfectly. Though it is only now, when I fill the scenes in with consideration to the themes I generated and paired with the Character Emotional Development plot line, do I understand that, with a shift in the protagonist's motivation, the stakes of the story rise and the clock starts ticking. 

In this new light, the story fills me with energy and I look forward to writing of the next draft... at the end of the month, that is. There are many other elements still left to consider.

The Middle (1/2)
The Halfway Point and the Crisis fit at the middle of the Middle (1/2) and almost at the end of the Middle (3/4 mark) work though now I see how I can make the Character Emotional Development dark night of the soul cut deeper thanks to how universal the theme of forgiveness.

The End (1/4)
The scene before the Climax and the Climax both fall at the End portion of the Plot Planner takes on more meaning thanks to the exploration into the Character Emotional Development plot line in relationship to the theme of redemption. 

Don't push the theme. It will come. The theme is there whether you figure it out or not. It's just if you know it, the common thread can give you focus and keep you on track. (Plus, a thematic significance statement comes in handy at those holiday parties when your friends ask you what your story is about...)

Your assignment, if you choose to continue: Throughout the week, glance at your cards and ask your story what it means.

The Beginning, Middle, and End interlock with each other. Everything contributes to the whole. Meaning comes from the character's choices.
  • Because of what happens in the Beginning creates what happens in the Middle?
  • Because of what happens in the Middle what comes at the End?
  • Because of what comes at the End, what happens at the Beginning?
  • What in the Beginning foreshadows what comes at the end?
  • The Crisis is a trigger for what new consciousness, self-awareness in the protagonist?
  • The protagonist's actions at the Climax reveals what about the character's transformation?
See what comes. Write it down. Keep your mind open and your thinking fluid.

(If you're just now joining us for International Plot Writing Month, please start on Day One and work your way back. Welcome... Last year at this time, I welcomed a big group of Swedish writers. My mother is from Sweden and I loved knowing writers from her homeland were following this. At the time, I had been wondering about the scarcity of comments and then decided it's like when a group of people is served a fabulous meal and the room falls silent as everyone gets to work... Welcome SCBWI-AZ!)

05 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Five

If you do not have a draft of a story written, follow the steps outlined this month to generate ideas for one now. (You'll have to use your imagination and fill in the missing blanks, but you're good at that, right? After all, you're a writer.....

I appreciate how we each desire to be heard and at the same time fear that what we have to say has no meaning. Desire and fear drown out the muse. Do what you must to silence your ego. Listen to your story instead.

Every story has its own unique energy. At the same time, everything around us follows a similar path. We are born, challenged, come to fullness, and die to who we were. Within the greater pattern, a similar version repeats itself innumerable times throughout our lives.

Today, using the scenes/events you generated on Day Three, let the energy of your story alight on the pattern itself with the help of the Universal Story Form (below is the template. On the site is further info)














Plot:

Try for all 7 of the following
or
3 scenes/events At the Least (*)
(Do NOT refer to your manuscript. Use the scenes you generated yesterday. No more than 7.)
  • Scene, moment, conflict, dilemma, loss, fear, etc. that forces protagonist to take immediate action -- Inciting Incident
  • Scene or event that symbolizes the end of what was. The protagonist's goal shifts or takes on greater meaning and turns the story in a new direction, launching the character into the actual story world itself -- End of the Beginning (*)
  • The moment the protagonist consciously makes a total commitment to achieving her goal and does something that signifies she has burned all bridges back and thus can only go forward -- Halfway Point
  • Scene or event that symbolizes an all-is-lost moment -- Crisis (*)
  • Scene just before the Climax
  • Scene or event that, just as it looks as if all is permanently lost for the protagonist, she saves the day -- Climax (*)
  • Resolution

Think of these 3-7 scenes/events as energetically holding more meaning and symbolism than the others (remember no more than 7 scenes/events total and no less than 3 scenes/events).

Some of you will be able to hold these 3-7 scenes/events in your head. Others, like me, benefit in 2 ways by actually drawing a Plot Planner (PP) on paper:
  • The task involves larger muscle groups than merely sitting in front of the computer while writing, and pulls you deeper into your body.
  • The visual reminder when affixed to the wall or refrigerator or bathroom mirror will help keep your story in mind all weekend.
Do whatever it takes to firmly imprint in your mind's eye the PP with your own unique 3-7 scenes.

This weekend, mull over how these major scenes/events are linked together in 3 ways:
  • Dramatic Action (Find the thread on the Character Plot Profile you filled out on Day One under "Dramatic Action Plotline." Your character's goals, which can change as the story develops, determine the Dramatic Action)
  • Character Emotional Development (Find this thread on the Character Plot Profile you filled out on Day One under "Character Emotional Development Plotline." Remember, story is about character transformation. Determine how the character transforms and how that process is revealed in your major 3 -7 scenes/events)
  • Thematic significance (Find the thread in the words you generated on Day Three).
Keep asking yourself what your story is trying to convey.
Make a list of ideas while patiently awaiting inspiration.
Search for meaning as you work, play, and prepare for
the descent into the longest night of the year.
By Winter Solstice, I plan to have us to
the Crisis of the story -- an apt time of the year...

If you have not yet finished your draft, do so now. At the very least, write the Climax.
If you are just joining us today, please begin on Day One and work your way back here.

03 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Four

If you are just joining us, welcome! Begin at Day One (you have to scroll down) and work your way here.

Draft #1 represents a leap of faith; you write without worrying about the outcome. Well, perhaps you worry, but if you're following us here, nonetheless you persevered. Congratulations!

In the Native American tradition, mouse medicine focuses on the attention to detail and runs in about 5- to 6-week cycles. NaNoWriMo writers devote fastidious attention to writing at highly concentrated levels. Like the mouse, when we're in the flow of getting the words on paper, we often neglect other areas.

As you begin winding down, let the words subside and your body return to rest.

Last year at this time, on my approach to the Santa Cruz mountains, I spotted a red-tailed hawk at the tip of a redwood tree, like an angel atop a giant's Christmas tree. Halfway over the mountain, I cringed when a hawk flew into my peripheral vision. Rather than crash, in a swirl of feathers, the hawk steered clear.

Hawks embody visionary powers and guardianship. I invite you to enter into the realm of expressing a higher vision of your story beyond the word level itself. Stand back. See the bigger picture and allow for new ideas.

Today:
  • Continue listing the major events or scenes of your story -- it's not necessary to remember every single scene, just the big plot points for now. Remember, no reading the manuscript itself. The big, important scenes should pop out at you. Later when we work with these events in comparison to what you actually wrote, you'll have a better sense of what to cut. Cutting, trimming, paring down the insignificant makes room for the scenes and events that truly drive the story. 

  • Start a second list. Write down any and all themes that pop up in each event. (Don't strain for these theme ideas. If something comes to you, write it down.) Examples like: 
abandonment
poverty
violence
trust
injustice
prejudice
forgiveness

(If you are just joining us today, start on 
Day One and work your way back to today.)

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Three

If you are just joining us, welcome! Begin at Day One (you have to scroll down) and work your way here.

Today, make a list in order of all the major scenes or events you remember writing (don't go back into the manuscript to locate the scenes and/or events. Remember: no reading yet).

That's it for today. We are complying the materials we need for the rest of the month.

01 December 2009

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Two

For those of you who have not yet finished the 1st draft of your story, keep writing. I encourage you to reach the end. The Climax will help with the work you do here. While you write, follow the steps outlined here throughout the month. One should not interfere with the other but rather compliment each other. (If you haven't started writing and only have an idea for a story, ignore today's prompt and adapt all future suggestions to fit your needs.)

Today's step is easy. Print out a hard copy of your manuscript. That's it.

As tempting as it is with the manuscript sitting right there in front of you, remember, no reading. Not yet. Let the story sit. Let yourself unplug from the writing side. You are now entering the analytical side.

For those of you who shudder at the thought of structure or run from the concept of plot, I'd like to share Joseph Campbell's words:

"It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.

Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.

The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to the the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded has become the center."

Plot and structure are the jewels. You'll see. Trust the process.

**If you're just joining us today, please read the last couple of posts to catch up:

2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day One

Welcome to the 2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month

Today begins a month-long opportunity to craft a draft of your writing into a story.

If you participated in NaNoWriMo, first take time to congratulate yourself! You've done what many have talked and dreamed of doing -- you've written an entire story from beginning to end. Celebrate!

Next, craft the project into a coherent piece worthy of publication. 

During December, take the steps needed to analyze what you've written and brainstorm for an effortless draft two in January '10. 

Re
vision your project before actually rewriting the manuscript. (This also works for writers without a first draft. Whether you merely have an idea for a story, a few chapters or scenes, just tweak the assignments to make them work for wherever you are in the process.)

Everyday this month, I'll provide plot tips and tricks and inspiration.

No writing required.

Following are a couple of caveats for our month together:

1) Do NOT show anyone what you've written so far. The first draft of any writing project is considered the generative phase. At the end of the generative phase, a writer is often faced with a manuscript full of holes and missteps, confusion and chaos. This is part of the process in that editing and/or an unbridled internal critic in the generative phase risks stifling the muse, which often results in stagnation.

Your first draft is a fragile thread of a dream. You know what you want to convey, well, maybe and sort of. Few writers can adequately communicate a complete vision in the first draft of a story, especially when writing by the seat of your pants. Allow others to read your writing now and you risk losing energy for your story and becoming overwhelmed by the task ahead of you.

2) Do NOT read what you've written. I know, I know. You're anxious to read your hard work. However, the longer you give yourself before actually reading your first draft, the better. If you read your manuscript now, you're still close enough to the work that you'll automatically fill in the gaps. Give yourself distance first. This allows you to read your work more objectively later.

Let's get started!

By now, you know who the protagonist of your story is. Stories are about character transformation. The character who is transformed by the dramatic action in your story is your protagonist. Fill out the following for your protagonist. If the major antagonist in your story is a person, fill out the following for that character as well. If you have more than one point of view character, fill out the form for that/those characters, too.

CHARACTER EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROFILE

Character’s name:

Dramatic Action Plotline
Overall story goal:
What stands in her way:
What does she stand to lose:

Character Emotional Development Plotline
Flaw:
Strength:
Hates:
Loves:
Fears:
Dream:
Secret:

Good luck! And remember, as tempting as it is, do NOT read your first draft. That will come later. For now, use what you know about your characters to fill out the form.